Mass Effect Review (Part 3 of 3)posted
12/9/2008 8:13:18 AM
"Mass Effect: A Decent Diversion" (Originally Written for GameFAQs) (Part 3 of 3)
Core Gameplay Element: GUI
While I did go into Mass Effect with the understanding that it was originally a console game, there had also been a six-month period between the console release and the Windows release for there to be enough time for essential changes to be made. For the most part, this holds true for the game's GUI, which is functional, but nothing fancy. However, this falls apart when it comes to inventory management; unlike its predecessors in the Knights of the Old Republic franchise, also produced by BioWare, inventory management does not feature sorting of any kind, nor does it feature item stacking or selling items as a group. This is especially irritating in the game, as the player finds so many items useless to themselves that selling and breaking down the items occurs quite often, but yet, the system is clunky and poorly designed at best. Considering their previous outings in the console to PC realm, one would expect better from BioWare, but this such is not the case.
Core Gameplay Element: Dialog
BioWare has always been known for its decent dialog. Though sometimes corny and sometimes wordy, the dialog in BioWare games have never been as trite and convoluted as in Mass Effect, where the game feels like one long conversation with sporadic bursts of exploration and combat. While this would be fine if the game was a visual novel, the game is, unfortunately, an action role-playing game; furthermore, a lot of the dialog is either poorly written or just downright trite; by halftime, the player will generally have spent more time in forced conversation than in actual combat, which would be fine, except the dialog serves no purpose other than to further the plot, which itself is trite, overdone and predictable.
Make no mistake; Mass Effect is extremely short. A complete play through of the game is roughly about twenty-five hours, including the majority of side quests; for an old-school role-playing game player accustomed to 100+ hours per game such as myself, this makes the game unbearably short.
Of course, the pacing of the game doesn't help. In addition to the relentless amounts of plodding conversation that breaks up the combat and exploration, the game also involves a story that drives the player to finish the main quest as quickly as possible to prevent total annihilation of the world, yet the developer throws in a bunch of side-quests that do nothing to help move the plot along; essentially, these side quests do nothing to help the pacing of the game, as they're either skipped by a player who is rushing to finish the main quest, or breaks up the main quest so much that the main quest loses steam. Additionally, the player can only carry 150 items; with almost every enemy dropping at least one thing, the inventory fills up quite quickly, forcing the player to stop to break down the loot into components, which itself is time-consuming, as each item must be broken down individually, further destroying the pacing of the game.
In conclusion, Mass Effect is a game full of bad design decisions. The decisions themselves aren't bad enough to completely break the game, but are bad enough to make the game less than good, let alone great. While some may think I'm overly critical of the title, and BioWare in general, I must point out that games such as Fallout and Planescape Torment were far superior in terms of their core gameplay elements, and were released years earlier than this title; if anything, Mass Effect is a step backwards in single-player role-playing games. Simply put, the game could have used another two to three months in development. Combined with the game's length, Mass Effect is a mediocre diversion, unworthy of more than half the praise it receives, but a diversion nonetheless in this single-player role-playing game drought. Granted, role-playing game lovers will play the Hell out of it, but, in the long run, it won't make a lasting impact in the same way other titles have.
Some will argue that Mass Effect is part of a planned trilogy. This, however, doesn't change the fact the title itself is a standalone release, and will therefore be judged as such; furthermore, the problems with the game's core elements have little to do with the fact the game is a trilogy, thereby nullifying the argument completely.